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Global Conflicts

USCENTCOM Intercepts Iranian Weapons to Houthis

Date: January 11, 2024

News Type: Military

Operation Country: United States

Location: Arabian Sea, Near Somalia Coast

On January 11, 2024, a defining moment in maritime security unfolded in the Arabian Sea. The US Central Command (USCENTCOM) Navy forces, in a daring night-time operation, intercepted a dhow illegally transporting advanced Iranian weapons to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. This strategic seizure took place near the coast of Somalia, highlighting the persistent threat posed by Iran’s covert arms transfers in violation of international law. The operation, involving U.S. Navy SEALs from the USS Lewis B. Puller and supported by a fleet of helicopters and UAVs, marks a significant blow to the Houthi’s escalating campaign against international shipping. This article delves into the operation’s details, its implications on regional stability, and the broader context of Iran’s role in fueling conflict in the Middle East.

Military Analysis
Operational Details and Tactics
The seizure operation, executed by the U.S. Navy SEALs, involved a complex boarding of the dhow under the cover of darkness. Utilizing state-of-the-art technology and tactical precision, the SEALs successfully secured the vessel, which harbored a cache of Iranian-made ballistic missile and cruise missile components. The components seized included propulsion systems, guidance modules, and warheads designed for medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), along with air defense equipment.

Strategic Implications
This operation not only disrupted a significant supply chain of lethal aid to the Houthi rebels but also underscored the growing proficiency and reach of U.S. maritime forces in countering illegal arms trafficking. It highlights the crucial role of the U.S. Navy in maintaining freedom of navigation and ensuring maritime security against threats posed by non-state actors like the Houthis, who have a history of targeting international merchant ships.
Iran’s Involvement and International Law
The seized weapons trace back to Iran, implicating it in the direct violation of U.N. Security Resolution 2216. This resolution prohibits the supply, sale, or transfer of weapons to Houthi forces in Yemen, and Iran’s actions represent a blatant disregard for international law and regional stability.
Historical Insight:
The history of U.S. Navy seizures of Iranian weapons bound for Yemen features several notable incidents over the past years:
  • 2023 Incidents:
  • On January 6, 2023, U.S. naval forces seized 2,116 AK-47 assault rifles from a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman, traveling from Iran to Yemen.
  • Another significant seizure occurred on January 15, 2023, in the Gulf of Oman, where more than 3,000 assault rifles, 578,000 rounds of ammunition, and 23 advanced anti-tank guided missiles were recovered.
  • 2021 Interdictions:
  • On December 20, 2021, the USS Tempest and USS Typhoon intercepted a fishing vessel carrying 1,400 AK-47 rifles and 226,600 rounds of ammunition in the northern Arabian Sea.
  • Earlier in 2021, the USS Monterey seized a large cache of weapons, including Russian anti-tank missiles and thousands of Chinese-made rifles.
  • 2020 Seizures:
  • On February 9, 2020, the USS Normandy intercepted the Al Qanas 1 dhow, carrying 150 anti-tank missiles, three surface-to-air missiles, and other weapons components.
  • 2019 Actions:
  • On November 25, 2019, the USS Forrest Sherman interdicted the Al Raheeb, an unflagged dhow, seizing 21 anti-tank missiles, five surface-to-air missiles, and other components.
  • 2016 Interception:
  • The USS Sirocco intercepted a dhow on March 28, 2016, in the Arabian Sea, seizing 1,500 AK-47s, 200 RPG launchers, and 21 .50 caliber machine guns.
  • These operations reflect the ongoing efforts of the U.S. Navy to enforce UN Security Council resolutions and combat illegal arms trafficking in the region, particularly the supply of weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen from Iran.

The successful interception of Iranian weapons bound for Houthi forces by USCENTCOM is a testament to the relentless efforts of the U.S. Navy in upholding international law and safeguarding maritime security. This operation not only disrupts the Houthi rebels’ access to advanced weaponry but also sends a clear message to Iran about the consequences of flouting international norms. As tensions continue to simmer in the Middle East, the vigilance and capability of USCENTCOM Navy forces in such high-stakes operations remain crucial. The incident serves as a reminder of the ongoing complexities in the region and the importance of international collaboration in maintaining global security and stability.

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